1st December 2022 is World AIDS Day, with global communities observing it under the theme “equalise”. This year, the WHO is calling on “leaders and citizens” to identify and address the inequalities that challenge progress in “attaining the global goal to end AIDS by 2030”. The theme highlights the importance of ensuring that essential HIV services reach the most in need and at risk. This includes children.  

COVID-19 forced us back 

Earlier in the year we reported on the UNAIDS report that suggested that the “global AIDS response is under threat”. UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima suggested that during 2021 a life was lost to AIDS every minute. Furthermore, the growth in the number of people with access to treatment was slower than in previous years.  

The WHO’s most recent statistics reinforce the urgency of UNAIDS’ report: 

  • Of the 38 million people living with HIV, 5.9 million people who know they have HIV are not receiving treatment. 
  • A further 4 million people living with HIV have not yet been diagnosed. 
  • While 76% of adults overall were receiving antiretroviral treatment that help them lead normal and healthy lives, only 52% of children living with HIV were accessing this treatment globally in 2021. 
  • 70% of new HIV infections are among people who are marginalized and often criminalized. 
  • While transmission has declined overall in Africa, there has been no significant decline among men who have sex with men – a key population group – in the past 10 years. 
Mpox makes matters worse 

Current WHO data shows that the percentage of people confirmed to have mpox and be living with HIV is high: 52%. Data reported to WHO suggest that people with mpox with untreated HIV “appear to be at risk for more severe disease than people without HIV”.  

“The current response to mpox shows that transmission can move quickly in sexual networks and within marginalized populations. But it can also be prevented with community-led responses and open attitudes to address stigma, and health and well-being can be improved, and lives can be saved.” 

Goals for the future 

With the shared goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030, the clock is ticking on collaborative action. Thus, the UN describes the impetus for “all of us to work for the proven practical actions needed to address inequalities and help end AIDS”.  

WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus emphasised the importance of “global solidarity and bold leadership” to ensure that “everyone receives the care they need”. For Dr Meg Doherty, WHO Director of the HIV, Hepatitis, and STI programmes, access should not be a barrier to “health for all”.  

“In order to end AIDS, we need to end new infections among children, end lack of treatment access to them, and end structural barriers and stigma and discrimination towards key populations as soon as possible.”  

Vaccines on the scene 

During the World Vaccine Congress in Europe in October 2022, we spoke to Dr Christian Brander of Aelix Therapeutics, to learn more about the possibility of vaccines for HIV. You can watch his interview here or click here to read more about the results of trials to this end.  

For updates on HIV vaccines at the World Vaccine Congress in Washington 2023, get your tickets now.